It’s all about buttons for Chatfield resident

SUBMITTED PHOTO Connie Fossen made this button picture of her son's pug as a gift.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Connie Fossen’s buttoned down, but no mistaking – she’s having a whole lot of fun. 

“I started a little over three years ago after I retired, and I started out with buttons to ‘use up’ buttons saved up over my lifetime, many buttons from the years I was a seamstress,” said the Chatfield crafter. “But then, learning about the history and variety of buttons, I got hooked on collecting.  Buttons have been around as long as human beings have made clothes.  Early buttons were made from shells, nuts, seed, wood and metals.  Buttons are both functional and beautiful, most notably seen in glass buttons from Europe, especially Czechoslovakia.  Every country and culture expresses their taste and traditions through buttons.”   

And once she’d collected plenty of buttons, the search was in motion to find even more.  She collects buttons from antique stores mostly, though she has purchased some on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. 

“I save glass buttons, rare and older buttons made from Bakelite and early plastics like celluloid – I have a few old Bakelite and celluloid buttons mixed in with hundreds of plain plastic buttons – and my favorite buttons are old mother of pearl buttons, especially those etched with designs.  I know I do not take buttons for granted because they are too interesting,” she said.

Being a button owner means that one is always looking for something to button down, though in Fossen’s case, it’s not quite what one might imagine.  She started out making button bouquets in antique salt and pepper shakers, then went on to bracelets, and now pictures made of buttons, somewhat like a mosaic.  She made a button garland to wrap around her Christmas tree this year to use up many white and gold buttons.

She spends time perusing websites to look at button art and crafts on Pinterest and Etsy for ideas and inspiration. 

“The design of the button craft and selecting the right button for the project is the highlight for me…the process of making the project is the most enjoyable to me.  Then the process of putting it together,” Fossen said. “My husband and I are Volkswagen enthusiasts, so I have made many VW Bug and bus pictures.  The most difficult picture I’ve made with buttons is a picture of my son’s pug.  The pug is black, so it was challenging to get the shading right.  And the balloon picture at Big Girl Stickers (in Chatfield) is the largest piece I’ve made.” 

She also appreciates that once she’s finished a button picture, it’s time to give it to someone to make them smile.  There is only one piece in her home, but many pieces are given to family and friends. 

“All of my family members have bouquets, bracelets and pictures,” she said.  “Also, I have taken my work to VW car shows and donated pieces to raise funds for VW car clubs.  Besides button art, I am learning blackwork, or embroidery stitches from medieval times.”  

Fossen’s button collecting and artwork, curiously, has even found her making family connections. 

“Funny but true story of collecting buttons:  I responded to a listing on Craigslist for a lifetime collection of buttons from the daughter of her 92-year-old mother,” she said.  “The mother and daughter turned out to be my aunt and cousin living in the Cities.  I bought the eight pounds of buttons from them!”